Changing Planet

You Can Walk Through Wildflowers and Help Save the World

Ever wished you could help the world by walking through fields of wildflowers taking pictures of butterflies?

You can.

Apply now to join Adventure Scientists’ Pollinators Project and collect valuable data in the backcountry for scientists and conservationists.

Picture of two people walking through an alpine meadow of wildflowers surrounded by rocky mountains.

Despite the wide variety of alpine flora, each butterfly species tends to chose a single species of plant on which to feed and lay its eggs. Photo by NPS/Karlie RolandThe Issue at Hand

Butterflies comprise approximately 20,000 species globally. They serve as important biodiversity indicators for ecosystem health and provide food for many organisms such as migrating birds.

The vast majority of wild pollinator data is collected in close proximity to urban areas. ​Adventure Scientists has joined forces with the University of Arizona to establish the first large-scale backcountry dataset that identifies butterfly abundance, diversity, and distribution as well as host plant phases across remote portions of their ranges.

Once the data is processed and compiled, public land managers can use it to inform decisions about prescribed burning, protection of threatened species, and forest planning.

Volunteers navigate to specific areas of study using maps and apps such as Gaia GPS. Once there, they use the iNaturalist app to upload photos of the butterflies and host plants that they observe.

Picture of a woman holding a butterfly net on a mountain top with larger mountains in the distance
The hills are alive with the sound of butterflies at Sauk Mountain, Washington. Photo courtesy Adventure Scientists

Acting Locally and Globally

Our Pollinators Project is composed of two efforts. In our Western U.S.-based project, volunteers are mobilized to collect data in pre-selected study sites across five states (Arizona, California, Utah, Montana, and Washington). In our global study, volunteers collect butterfly observations from remote sites of their choosing around the world.

We need adventurous volunteers for both of these projects. If you can hike to remote areas (at least a mile from a roadway) and capture clear photos of insects up close, you can help scientists and conservationists in this mission to better understand our world.

Your hikes can take you far–and take conservation even further.

Apply to join our Pollinators Project today!

Prefer flora to fauna? Check out our Timber Project.

More of a roadbike person? Our Wildlife Connectivity Project is calling.

Learn more about Adventure Scientists and the work we do around the world.

Gregg Treinish founded Adventure Scientists in 2011 with a strong passion for both scientific discovery and exploration. National Geographic named Gregg Adventurer of the Year in 2008 when he and a friend completed a 7,800-mile trek along the spine of the Andes Mountain Range. He was included on the Christian Science Monitor's 30 under 30 list in 2012, and the following year became a National Geographic Emerging Explorer for his work with Adventure Scientists. In 2013, he was named a Backpacker Magazine "hero", in 2015, a Draper Richards Kaplan Entrepreneur and one of Men's Journal's "50 Most Adventurous Men." In 2017, he was named an Ashoka Fellow. Gregg holds a biology degree from Montana State University and a sociology degree from CU-Boulder. He thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2004. Read more updates from Gregg and others on the Adventure Scientists team at adventurescientists.org/field-notes. Follow Adventure Scientists on Instagram @adventurescientists, on Facebook @adventurescientists, and on Twitter @AdvScientists.

About the Blog

Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

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Voices director: David Braun (dbraun@ngs.org)

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